Thousands of dead fish are clogging a canal in Howard Beach and causing alarm in the neighborhood.
Residents said for the past two weeks they have had to endure the smell of rotting fish coming from Shellbank Basin. They are demanding an answer from the city.
But city officials attributed the die-off to a "natural phenomenon."
"It's like sitting in a garbage dump on a 90-degree day," said Bob Giallanzo, 53, a worker with the Department of Transportation who lives along the basin. "Everything in there is dying."
The dead fish are mostly menhaden - known around Jamaica Bay as bunker - an oily bait fish used by recreational anglers that doesn't fare well in poorly aerated water. The fish swim in large schools and likely suffocated in water poorly oxygenated due to a massive algae bloom, a city official said.
Howard Beach residents sick of dead fish smell from Shellbank Basin
City Councilman Joe Addabbo (D-Ozone Park) said the stench is affecting local businesses and schools. Addabbo and neighbors said the city may have stopped using a destratification process that pumps air into the water of the canal and allows fish to breathe.
The city is using skimmer boats to clean the dead fish from the canal, but neighbors said that the area's ecosystem - including seagulls and even rats - has already been affected.
"There are dead birds on top of the dead fish," said Maureen Muller, 63, a receptionist who lives near the basin. "People are sick to their stomachs."